In all of history, no war seems to have touched the minds of people everywhere as much as World War II has. This war brought about some of the worst violations of human right sever seen. The German military created a system for the public to follow, and if the individual opposed, he was oppressed. This kind of mentality is presented in the novel, Catch-22 (1955).
Joseph Heller uses the insane situations of the setting and his characters to show a unique perspective on World War II. A small Army Air Corps base serves as the setting for Catch-22. It is set on a fictitious island called Pianos a. The island is described as very small and is located in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Elba, Italy. It is set in the time of World War II.
The island almost serves asa microcosm of the war taking place around it. This setting accommodates nearly all of the hardships being faced by the victims of WWII. The Air Corps dominates this island and its soldier inhabitants. A system is established and it must be obeyed by all the soldiers.
This system is through a “catch-22.” Basically the catch-22 is a trap set up by the military bureaucracy to keep all of the soldiers flying in battle. It is best summed up in a piece of dialogue from the novel. It is shared between the main character, Yossarian, and the base’s doctor, Daneeka: “Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. ‘Is Orr crazy?’ ‘He sure is,’ Doc Daneeka said. ‘Can you ground him?’ ‘I sure can. But first he has to ask me to.
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That’s part of the rule.’ ‘Then why doesn’t he ask you to?’ ‘Because he’s crazy,’ Doc Daneeka said. ‘He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he’s had. Sure I can ground him. But first he has to ask me to.’ ‘And then you can ground him?’ Yossarian asked. ‘No. Then I can’t ground him.’ ‘You mean there’s a catch?’ ‘Sure there’s a catch,’ Doc Daneeka replied.
‘Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.’ ” (Heller, 46) This bureaucratic trap is accepted by most of the naive soldiers. This is why the military is able to make the soldiers do whatever they want them to do. The characters are persuaded to believe in the system rather than oppose it.
Yossarian seems to be the only one who sees the insanity of this situation. This scenario is almost like the one initiated by Adolph Hitler in Germany at this time. Hitler saw the people of Germany as impressionable and easily swayed. He used propaganda to make them do whatever he wanted. It was through this course of action that 6 million Jewish people were mass murdered. Heller makes it all the more ironic that this same kind of mentality is being used by the American military in his novel, and he projects his attitude towards war through this irony.
Heller portrays the military as a self-contradictory and oppressive force. He sees the military as taking away a soldier’s individuality. The struggle for individuality by each character is evident throughout the novel. Their experiences make the scenario believable to the reader. Each character represents an attitude in the system. Milo Minderbinder and Colonel Cathcart are great representatives of the military.
To them, the soldiers are seen as tools to further their careers. Milo Minderbinder, a military authority figure, is in charge of business decisions made during the war. He uses his powers to create a syndicate called the “M&M syndicate.” It’s purpose is to profit any way it can off the war. In the process, Milo increases his own personal wealth. Milo’s business tactics are ridiculous as well. At one point, he suggests the soldiers eat chocolate-covered cotton he received from Egypt in order to cut back on food expenses.
• What is the difference between a military revolution and a revolution in military affairs (RMA)? Why is the difference important? • Are we currently experiencing a military revolution, an RMA, or something else? • What is the "Western way of war"? What are its key elements and how are they different from warfare practiced by the rest of the world? • Is an RMA defined by technology or something ...
In another instance, he trades all of the men’s silk parachutes for eggs. His tactics often endanger the soldiers’ lives. The most outrageous of his schemes occurs when he orders the bombing of his own base in order to fulfill his end of a bargain with the Germans. Milo could also represent the element of greed in WWII. When Hitler dominated Germany, his mastery obsession wasn’t satisfied.
His sights were set on ruling the entire world. Milo poses as a representation of this kind of greed in the story. Colonel Cathcart, the main decision-maker of the base, also exploits the troops, but for different reasons. He wants to use the soldiers to advance his own rank. Like Milo, he has no problem with putting his soldiers’ lives in danger; in fact, he purposely sends his men on the most dangerous missions. He does this so his superiors will be impressed.
He hopes that will result in promotion. He constantly raises the number of missions the troops have to fly; therefore, he keeps the “catch” activated. Yossarian is the main character. He is the one who rebels against the system.
He tries to stay out of combat as much as he can. He resorts to insane behavior such as refusing to wear clothing, etc. Yossarian shows that the only sane response to the system is to act insane. Belief in the importance of human life is one thing that keeps him alive throughout the chaos. He sympathizes with his fellow soldiers and tries to maintain their individuality as well as his own. Yossarian feels he is the only one that sees the horrifying nature of the system and becomes separated from it.
The system eventually overcomes Yossarian and he is forced to end it all by jumping in a small boat; attempting to row to neutral Sweden. This kind of behavior was typical during WWII. Some soldiers could not endure the hardships of war and were forced to resort to irrational methods to cope with it. Some committed suicide, others avoided combat by abandoning their squadrons. Whatever the circumstance, WWII was an insane time for nearly all the world. Heller’s situations presented in the setting and the use of his characters create a unique pe.
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